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The 1,000 Rep Problem, #whatsupwiththat – (Not originally by, but brought to your attention) By Courtney Shepherd
Yesterday I addressed the risk vs. reward dilemma we face during workouts. I brought up the fact that our ability to really weigh it out can be heavily biased by our egos. I would like to address another concept that sounds great on paper but again doesn’t always play out in real life when our heads get in the way. That is the concept of Mechanics, Consistency, Intensity. Good old MCI. You’ve probably heard of it, I know I may have mentioned it a time or two previously. MCI is actually CrossFit’s mantra. We want to nail down the mechanics of a movement first, we want to maintain those mechanics consistently, and then we want to add some intensity into the mix. Intensity doesn’t just mean doing it harder or faster (that’s what she said), intensity refers to adding weight, adding reps, adding volume, and yes, adding speed. These are all forms of intensity, they are all a way to make a workout that much harder or more difficult. A problem for most of us is we put these types of intensities ahead of our consistent mechanics. We want to have the “RX” by our name, we want to see if we can beat that guy or this girl, we just feel like we should be able to do that weight or all those reps. Do any of those statements sound familiar? We can say a lot to justify adding intensity but what we need to realize is that we have to earn the intensity. How you ask? Consistent mechanics.
Seriously though, why do we need to be consistent? This just seems like a way to “harsh my gig” or “waste my flava”. Well, do we really only want to be able to perform a lift perfectly once? Well, maybe, if we are in a 1RM contest and we plan to retire immediately following that one perfect lift. But I don’t see that to be the case. Instead I foresee a WOD in which we will have to perform a lift upwards of 50 times. We want to make sure we can make that lift 50 times with good form, because as stated in yesterday’s blog, we know there is a price to be paid for lifting with poor form. It is not enough to have good mechanics, we NEED to have them consistently.
There is an idea known as the “1,000 rep problem”. Matt Foreman wrote an article about this for the Catalyst Athletics website, you can click here to read the whole thing. This is what Matt has to say:
“The 1,000 rep problem is the situation that exists when a lifter has finally found the correct technique of the snatch or clean & jerk. After tons of work and coaching, they’ve done it right. But now they have to do it right another 1,000 times to memorize that correct movement.
We’re talking about things like muscle memory, nervous system memorization of a specific movement, motor learning, that kind of stuff. Some people think of this as learning correct technique and then making it a habit. I don’t really see it as a habit. I think of it as learning correct technique and then continuing to do it right until you basically don’t know how to do it wrong anymore. Habits are just recurring behaviors, like peeing in the shower. You can stop doing those things any time you want. I’m talking about a more fanatical level of performance, where your body just instinctively executes a certain movement because that’s all it knows how to do.
I think you have to do a massive number of correct lifts before you’ve got that kind of muscle memory. I picked 1,000 for the name of this concept because it emphasizes long-term development and it sounds cool. I know there’s no set-in-stone number.”
Fanatical level of performance? This article specifically targets the Olympic lifts but we can have a fanatical level of performance in anything, from the kipping pull-up to making our bullet proof coffee in the morning. It simply means taking the time to do something right and continuing to take the time to keep doing it right. What’s the rush? When we position our body correctly and move it through space maintaining that right position what results is correct form and highly efficient movement. The question becomes, how do we maintain correct form and highly efficient movement? Answer: Repetition. Even better answer: Repetition of the correct form and highly efficient movement. Anything that’s worth doing right is worth doing right a lot, like 1,000 times.
Some final thoughts:
– We only get the 1,000 rep problem after we’ve done it right for the first time. Our first correct rep is #1. There is the possibility some of us haven’t even had this rep yet. That’s okay. Our goal is to get that first good rep and work from there.
– Bad lifts don’t count towards our accumulated total. So if we’ve done 287 correct lifts and then we have a workout where our technique is lost, we make no attempts to correct it, and we wind up doing thirty sloppy snatches, we are still at 287 at the end of the day
There is a word used in CrossFit that has become a favorite of mine, virtuosity, doing the common uncommonly well.
Lighten the load, slow the pace, master the technique, strive to be virtuous.